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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

Two kingdoms, one vision of a shared future

Two kingdoms, one vision of a shared future

The King’s Day is a special occasion in the Belgian calendar. Its history goes back to 1866, when Nov. 15 was chosen to be celebrated in Belgium as a tribute to the first king of the Belgians, Leopold I.
Every year our embassy in Riyadh tries try to celebrate the day in a different format. But what we always want to stress and celebrate is our growing partnership with Saudi Arabia and with our Saudi friends, and to take this opportunity to reflect on the relations between our two countries.

Belgium opened its first legation in Jeddah in 1954 and appointed its first ambassador in 1964. Saudi Arabia appointed its first ambassador to Brussels in 1963. Three royal visits then followed in a short period of time. King Faisal paid an official visit to Brussels in 1967, King Baudouin visited Saudi Arabia in 1975, and King Khaled also came to Belgium in 1978.

These meetings have led to increased exchanges between the peoples of our two countries. High-level economic missions have been conducted by Belgian princes and princesses on a regular basis in order to keep close and friendly ties between our two nations. These economic missions have demonstrated that bilateral relations are not only at the royal level but also at the business and personal levels.

Since the opening-up of the country, more and more Belgian artists and companies are coming to Saudi Arabia to share their culture, knowhow and experience and, with an interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cooperation between the two kingdoms is slowly growing.

The Riyadh Season and its variety of events was an opportunity to boost the Belgian participation in the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia. This booming field is attracting Belgian artists and companies to the Kingdom. For example, for the Middle Beast festival, three Belgian DJs, two of them women — Charlotte de Witte and Amélie Lens, along with Lost Frequencies— will perform. They represent the musical richness of Belgium which is home to Tomorrowland, one of the world’s largest annual electronic music festivals.

In the cultural sector, the Belgian sculptor and visual artist Kim De Ruyssche has been selected amont 20 other artists from all over the world to participate at the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium from Nov. 10 until Dec. 6. Through this participation, Kim will be able to share his passion for sculpture and exchange knowledge with Saudi and foreign fellow sculptors.

To demonstrate the Belgian leading role in the fashion industry, the embassy held a fashion show with Lomar, an iconic Saudi house, for which the Belgian designer Christophe Beaufays is working. Last week another fashion show, for women, was organized at the embassy, presenting a unique collection of haute couture night gowns and kimonos, with high quality fabrics and lace from the Belgian designer Carine Gilson. We strongly believe in the importance of these events as they are among the best ways to create opportunities to exchange ideas, thoughts and projects.

When we hear “Belgium,” the first thing that comes to mind is “chocolate”! Our famous chocolate brands are our best ambassadors everywhere in the world. Two years ago the Belgian royal warrant holder Mary Chocolate opened a shop in Riyadh, and Neuhaus — the creator of the famous Belgian praline — is opening soon.

As Saudi Arabia organizes more international sports competitions, an increasing number of Belgian sportsmen and women are stepping on Saudi soil. In December 2019, we were honored to see the tennis player David Goffin participating at the Diriyah Tennis Cup, the first international tennis tournament played in Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, in Formula E, the Belgian drivers Jerome d’Ambrosio and Stoffel Vandoorne participated in the races held annually since 2018 in Diriyah. In golf, Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry participated in the previous Saudi International tournament, and will surely come back for further events. Furthermore we have many horse riders training and participating in events here in Saudi Arabia and many Saudi friends going to Belgium for international competitions.

Our deepening relations include tourism as well. More and more Saudis are discovering Belgium as a tourist destination and are fond of our medieval cities, diamonds, lace, cycling culture and exquisite food; a Belgian Michelin star restaurant will have a pop-up venue during the Riyadh eason. Many compatriots also came to Saudi Arabia to discover the dazzling desert landscapes of the country.

Last but not least, we are eagerly awaiting the stop in Riyadh of Zara Rutherford, the teenage Belgian-British pilot who is attempting to break the world record as the youngest woman to fly solo around the world. Her aim is to inspire young girls worldwide to start a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which is a cause the embassy fully supports. Indeed we recently organized an event to exchange the experiences and best practices of our two countries in the promotion and the support of STEM for young Saudi and Belgian students.

These areas of cooperation that range across different sectors and fields in Saudi Arabia are widening every year. Our bilateral relations are reinvigorated with every joint venture and initiative to meet the aspirations of the peoples of the two kingdoms. We hope all of you enjoy the Belgian Tricolore flag lighting up the Kingdom Tower on the evening of the Nov. 15.

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